The King Who Couldn’t Speak

With Colin Firth playing a royal with a stutter, The King’s Speech is certain for Oscar magic, but Andrew Roberts says it gets the story all wrong and is simply bad history.

By Andrew Roberts

THE DAILY BEAST, January 2011 – The buzzy new movie, The King’s Speech, is an affectionate portrait of Queen Elizabeth II’s parents, Bertie, the Duke of York (later King George VI) and Elizabeth the Duchess of York (later the Queen Mother), told through the prism of the King’s overcoming of his stammer. Starring Colin Firth as the king, Helena Bonham Carter as the queen, and Geoffrey Rush as the king’s Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue, it also boasts a cast that includes Derek Jacobi, Michael Gambon, Timothy Spall, and Anthony Andrews. Yet before it is accepted as an accurate historical record of what happened to the Royal Family between 1925 and 1939, viewers should know of the very many glaring and egregious inaccuracies and tired old myths that this otherwise charming film unquestioningly regurgitates.His Majesty King George VI at the Parliament Buildings 19 May 1939 / Ottawa, Ont

Of course Hollywood has long played fast and loose with history. As the clerihew goes:

Cecil B. de Mille
Rather against his will
Was persuaded to leave Moses
Out of The Wars of the Roses.

But at a moment when, as a result of Prince William’s engagement to Kate Middleton, many eyes will be turned onto the House of Windsor, it is as well to explode a few legends about the Prince’s great-grandfather, George VI, the monarch who saw Britain through the Second World War. The first is the simple one that his stutter wasn’t anything like as bad as the film depicts. In fact, it was relatively mild, and when he was concentrating hard on what he was saying it disappeared altogether. His speech to the Australian parliament in Canberra in 1927 was delivered without stuttering, for example. Yet in the movie it is so chronic that Colin Firth can hardly say a sentence without prolonged stuttering, right the way up to the outbreak of war in 1939. Of course, the whole premise of the movie is based on Logue’s cure, but recordings of the Duke of York before he even met Logue make it clear that his problem was nothing like so acute as this film makes out.

Read Andrew Roberts entire review here at The Daily Beast

Follow this link for a review of The Kings Speech by Churchill Centre member Professor David Freemen for Finest Hour 150.

© The Daily Beast

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